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Interview with Yuri Bychkov

It’s time to stop the cold war

February 16, 2007, Moscow held a meeting of the Executive Committee of the European Fencing Federation (FEE, Federation d'Europe d'Escrime) chaired by Confederation President, President of the Fencing Federation of Russia Mr. Alisher Usmanov. Representatives of 10 countries took part in the meeting. President of the International Fencing Federation (FIE, Federation Internationale d'Escrime) Rene Roch also came to the meeting. Questions of our correspondent Tatiana Kolchanova were answered by First Vice-President of the Fencing Federation of Russia, Vice-President of the Fund "For the future of fencing", the Fund representative in countries of Europe Mr. Yuri Bychkov.

- Yuri Mikhailovich, what were the main issues the Executive Committee discussed at the meeting?

- The meeting started at two PM and a three hours’ discussion was about relations between the FEE and FIE. In previous years, when the FEE was headed by Eno Kamuti from Hungary, there was an open confrontation between fencing officials from Europe and the International Federation. The FEE and FIE were unable to come to agreement on a number of fundamental matters. Such mutual relations were of no use for the World fencing as well. By the way, Mr. Usmanov’s main ground during his election campaign for the FEE Presidency was to establish working relations with the International Federation.

- What was Mr. Rene Roch’s reaction to this discussion?

- Roch was kind; he answered questions with a smile. However, such behavior of the FIE President was in many ways due to Usmanov’s diplomacy and his orientation to a constructive dialogue. He proved to be a skilful diplomat, though some acute questions on the future development of fencing in Europe and in Russia, in particular, were raised there. The discussion went on to the composition of the FIE commissions, the International Federation referee staff. Usmanov asked Roch a question, why the leading countries of Europe dictating today’s fashion at the World’s fencing grounds are poorly represented in commissions. Roch tried to explain that composition of commissions is determined during elections and that he bears no personal responsibility for the fact that not always only leading fencing countries vote for their candidates. Of course, it’s the Roch’s policy aimed at creating a productive climate and at his undisturbed functioning as the FIE President.

- What did the Europe representatives suggested in relation to it?

- The matter was about the future, about the destiny of the World fencing. It has to be determined by the people who create a qualitative fencing product. Exactly these experts help us develop fencing in countries once weak in this respect. If we take Russian fencing specialists, today they train representatives from 56 counties. The discussion also stated that is it is not enough just to open new national fencing federations to be on paper only. Much more important is to render a practical assistance by involving leading trainers, providing equipment, outfits, holding joint training competitions with fencers from leading countries. Actually, it is the real work that is being done today by the Fund "For the future of fencing" founded by Mr. Alisher Usmanov’s initiative. This work has gained a new stage of conducting training workshops the level of which was highly appreciated by representatives of all the World federations. The Fund fruitful activities have nudged Mr. Rene Roch to dynamic actions as well. He also started to arrange workshops, however, not for the FIE or his own money but at the expense of the IOC “Solidarity” organization the activities of which cover all the sports. In order to hold these workshops Roch has to turn to our experts. However, the level of events arranged by the Fund differs from the ones held by the “Solidarity” as we not only involve leading experts into the work but also publish methodic books in four languages – Russian, English, French and Spanish. Recently, a book for trainers – Training of Champion – has come off the press. Experts could considerably raise the level of their work after reading it. It will be of great help for numerous fencing federations opened in Africa and Asia.

- What other issues did Usmanov focus on?

- He repeatedly stated that the real situation in the fencing world has changed of late years. It is time to change the attitude towards Europe now because due to the financing, consolidation of experts’ efforts, it is exactly Europe that mainly influences the development of our sport in today’s World. Hence, it is time to stop the cold war between the FIE and FEE and to find such forms of interaction that could really help prosper the fencing around the globe.

- You have also mentioned the problem of insufficient involvement of referees from leading countries into the major fencing competitions. How did Roch comment on this problem?

- Roch was provided with statistical data of involvement of referees from European countries into International competitions. For instance, representatives from Russia take only the eleventh place in this list. Roch is a clever and experienced politician. He has denied the responsibility at once and said that the referee staff composition for one or another competition was determined by the FIE Referee Commission, however, he has never mentioned the reasons for discrimination of European countries on this issue. A have to say that Alisher Usmanov did not press upon Roch. He was very tactful but gave to understand that he will be very consistent in defending interests of Europe and Russia. I believe it is the main outcome of the FEE Executive Committee meeting with participation of FIE President Rene Roch.

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